"The Interdependency with it's religious and social ethos of interconnectedness combined with a guild-centered, monopolistic economy, they'd created possibly the most ridiculously complex method of ensuring the formal caste system of nobles intertwined with a merchant class, and common workers underneath, complicated proceeding even further. And yet it worked. It worked because on a social level, apparently enough people wanted it to, and because at the heart of it, billions of humans living in fragile habitats prone to mechanical and environmental breakdowns and degradation, and with limited natural resources, were better off relying on each other than trying to go it alone. Even without the Interdependency being interdependent was the best way for humanity to survive." (p 276) At the head of the whole thing is the emperox who had the largest guild, was the head of the church, and had a seat on parliament.
The book opens up with the old emperox dying and leaving as his heir his daughter from his mistress, Cardenia, a woman who has grown up outside of the capital and has no idea how to run things. His legal heir died tragically in a racing car accident while engaged to Nadshe Nohampetan from one of the important guilds, but truly a horrible person from a horrible family. Nadshe was the brains of the family and Cardenia's brother could have handled her just fine and made use of her. Now her much dumber brother Amit is sniffing around trying to get her to say yes to a marriage proposal and the council wants her to say yes. But when her father was dying he told her it would be a poor match. The council, which is comprised of a representative from the church, representatives from the guilds, and politicians, is preparing to run her down and tell her what to do. But Cardenia who has chosen as her royal name Grayland II and only lets personal friends and family in private call her Cardenia. She uses the plural We when she talks as she is talking for the entire system. In private she can use the singular when she feels like it.
At her coronation, a bomb goes off on the balcony when they are getting off the elevator and some other bombs go off in the crowds. The one on the balcony kills her best friend and personal assistant who keeps her on schedule and lets her know what she needs to know for every scenario and rights up speeches for her to say for every occasion. She is told that it is rebels from the rebel war going on at the planet End, which is as you might guess at the end of the system. It's the only planet where people actually live on it. This is of course, not true as the rebels could care less about who is crowned emperox. They are more concerned as to who is running things on End. But those on Hub, where the seat of the emperox and the government is they believe what they are being told by the Nohampetans, mainly Nadshe who has a secret plan in place.
On End, a once famous physicist seemingly turned his back on all that and took a title after he slept with the wrong woman and was sent to End to be a tax auditor. But secretly he was working for the emperox who has just died to further his research and to find out if it is true and what will happen. His son, Marce Claremont, has been helping him and the two have discovered that the Flow, the streams with which people travel from one planet to another in a matter of weeks or months instead of decades or more, has been degrading and is now falling apart and disappearing altogether with the one from End to the Hub the first to go. The physicist puts his son on one of the last ships going back to the Hub in order to talk to the emperox. But his trip will be fraught with peril as Ghreni Nohampetan is trying to either kill him or keep him back on End.
I really loved this book. While I loved Cardenia, one of my favorite characters was Lady Kiva, the family representative of the House of Lagos who owns the ship that Marce is leaving on and with whom, Ghreni has made the mistake of screwing with. She cusses worse than a sailor, sleeps with whoever she wants, and does as she pleases unless her mother, the head of the House of Lagos tells her differently because her mother is someone she respects and hopes to be someday. Kiva is smart and can really put a plan together and is prepared to sacrifice for the greater good. This book is the first in a series or a trilogy or at least has a sequel with the way it ended. I'm desperate to find out what happens next so Mr. Scalzi write faster, please.
Really nice people don’t usually accrue power.
--John Scalzi (The Collapsing Empire p 32)
“I don’t think she’s going to keep it to herself.” “It’s not whether she tells everyone,” Huma said. “It’s whether they believe her.” “It’s the truth.” “Oh, my daughter,” Huma said, and smiled. “Don’t tell me you don’t know how little that actually means.”
-John Scalzi (The Collapsing Empire p 274)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Collapsing-Empire-John-Scalzi-ebook/dp/B01F20E7CO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495464388&sr=8-1&keywords=the+collapsing+empire